Sunday, 28 February 2010

Datacolor’s Spyder3Express – a review

Regular readers will know that when I’m not writing or consulting about mainframes, I do some work designing and coding Web sites. Now one of the most important things with a Web site is how the graphics look – and this is always different with different screens. So my problem is to find a way to ensure the colour of any photographs I use really are that colour and not another one because my screen is not showing the true colour.

This is where Datacolor’s Spyder3Express can help. Now, Datacolor produce Spyder3Elite and Spyder3Pro for professionals, but Spyder3Express is ideal for amateurs and enthusiasts (and it’s cheaper). The device measures the colours that your laptop screen produces and creates a profile. Once the profile is created, it is not necessary to re-profile for a couple of weeks – and that’s only because of the natural changes that occur in the quality of the colours produces by the screen.

When using the Spyder3Express, you have to wait for the screen to warm up – the software recommends 30 minutes – you then put the hardware against the screen while the screen displays various colours. This is what the Spyder3Express is measuring. It only takes a short while and then you get a chance to compare the new settings against the previous ones – and it’s quite surprising how much better the pictures on screen look using the new settings. And that’s about all there is to it.

Datacolor says the Spyder3Express, “ensures accurate, reliable, and consistent colours every time, so photographs, including tonal ranges in black-and-white photos, will always look their best and brightest”.

For something that is so simple, you end up with something that makes the images on screen look so much better – and so much more realistic. And this is where I started from, I wanted a quick and easy way to ensure that the colours of images that I could see on my screen, really were that colour. That way I could select other colours and tones more accurately.

Would I recommend it? Most definitely. As I said, the difference between the before and after quality of the photos was almost breathtaking. The improvement after using the Spyder3Express would be noticeable to even the most non-artistic user. Now I know there are hundreds of people out there perfectly happy with their off-colour displays, but when you’ve seen how a photo should look, you really will be glad you got one.

There’s more information at

Monday, 22 February 2010


I must admit that until the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2010 was published, I was only dimly aware of (their Web site, not surprisingly, is at They sponsored the Yearbook, and so I thought I’d find out more about them.

Their Web site explains that is a forum for exchanging news, views, and information related to creating an open market for IBM-compatible mainframe solutions. And I guess they would put the stress on the word “compatible”.

It goes on to explain that the Web site was built by a community of individuals and companies sharing a common interest in promoting a fair, open, and diverse marketplace for mainframe solutions. There’s a big thank you to T3 Technologies (which describes itself as effectively out of business due to the direct actions of IBM – you may remember its tServer mainframe, based on FLEX-ES, was a great success) Microsoft Corporation (not a fan of IBM), the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA says it promotes open markets, open systems, open networks, and full, fair, and open competition), Peerstone Research (which advises customers on buying decisions), TurboHercules (which describes itself as the first commercial entity exclusively dedicated to Hercules, the well-known open source software implementation of the IBM mainframe architecture) and others.

This group of IBM-alternativists informs us that it believes IT customers can benefit from lower costs, increased innovation, broader choice, and better customer service when markets are truly open and multiple vendors compete for business. A sentiment that it’s hard to disagree with – unless, I suppose, you’re an IBM accountant!

The site lists a large number of laudable beliefs, including:
•    IBM mainframe system software, middleware, and intellectual property should be available to all solution providers and customers for licensed use on alternative hardware platforms under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
•    In order to promote interoperability, compatibility, and an open market for mainframe solutions, IBM should be required to publish interface and protocol information for mainframe technologies.
•    Given the strategic value of IBM-compatible mainframe systems for businesses and governments worldwide, multiple vendors should be allowed to participate in an open market for the supply of mainframe hardware, software, and services without interference from IBM. An open market will encourage price competition, differentiated innovation, and broader solution choices to meet the needs of customers.

I’ve got to say, that it’s a long time since I was at a site with an Amdahl mainframe or even a Hitachi one. Whatever happened to these Plug-Compatible Mainframes (PCMs). And IBM has squashed the life out of mainframe software emulation systems from organizations such as Platform Solutions and Fundamental Software. is keen to see some kind of alternative to a monolithic IBM – hence the support for (and from) TurboHercules.

I’ve become a member. I’m a strong supporter of IBM, but I can also see the benefits from competition. I talk to people who wouldn’t even consider a mainframe solution at the moment – without understanding the benefits – who might think differently if there were a cheaper way of bringing them into the mainframe fold.

If you feel the same – and they list IBM’s assault on NEON’s zPrime as just one example of IBM’s tactic of crushing threats – then why not join as well?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

DB2 V10 for z/OS beta

IBM has recently announced a beta of DB2 Version 10. It's claimed to provide savings through operational efficiencies, resiliency for business critical information, rapid application and warehouse deployment for growth, and enhanced query and reporting facilities.

IBM claims that compared to previous DB2 versions, some customers can achieve a 5% to 10% out-of-the-box CPU savings for traditional workloads and up to 20% out-of-the-box CPU savings for non-traditional workloads. IBM also suggests that productivity improvements in DB2 10 for database and system administrators can drive additional operational efficiencies and cost savings. Synergy with other System z platform components reduces CPU use by leveraging the latest processor improvements, larger amounts of memory, solid-state disk and z/OS enhancements.

In terms of scalability, DB2 10 delivers the ability to handle up to 20,000 concurrent active users on a single DB2 subsystem, many more than in previous versions. SQL and pureXML enhancements in DB2 10 help extend usability, improve performance, and ease application portability to DB2 for z/OS.

IBM goes on to say that built-in data visualizations and graphical page-based reports extend Query Management Facility (QMF) 10's usage from the traditional technical user to a broader community of business end users. QMF's new metadata layer, they say, simplifies the underlying data model, empowering non-technical users with self-service reporting and extends access to DB2 for z/OS across the enterprise.

Find out more at
Or check out Willie Favero's interesting blog at

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Eye-Fi card – review

We’ve all taken digital photos on our digital cameras and then got to our laptops to upload them and thought there must be a better way than faffing around getting the card out of the camera and sticking it in the card reader slot or even worse connecting a cable to download the pictures. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just put your camera near your laptop and the photos would automatically copy across. Well, that’s exactly what an Eye-Fi card does.

Installation is very straightforward. You open the box and the Eye-Fi card is already in the USB reader. You simply plug this into a USB slot on the laptop and wait while your computer recognizes the card reader. After a little while a dialogue box appears asking what you want to do with the contents of the new drive. There’s one that looks like a coloured pebble with radar waves coming out of it. That unflattering description is the Eye-Fi icon – and it says “Free Your Memories” on the menu next to the icon. It’s usually pre-selected, so all you need do is press the “OK” button. The software then installs.

At the end of the installation, the Eye-Fi Manager set-up wizard launches. You simply press the “Next” button. The instructions that appear onscreen are perfectly straightforward and these need to be followed to complete the Eye-Fi registration process.

After that stage completes, you are asked to remove the Eye-Fi card from the card reader and put it into a camera. And that’s really all there is to set up. Perhaps obviously you need to have wifi set up for it to work, and you’ll need to enter your WPA key during set up.

As long as the camera is powered on, bring in near the computer allows photos and videos to upload to your laptop without any effort. Once they’ve all arrived, turn off your camera – to conserve battery power.

You can associate the card with a different computer, and you can associate the card with multiple access points (although you need to run the Eye-Fi Manager software again and put the card back in the card reader).

One of the great features – if you want to use it – is, in Eye-Fi Manager, to choose the to have your photos automatically uploaded to online sharing sites like Picasa, Flickr, Facebook and many others. I chose not to do this – so there’s no link to my online pictures, you’ll be pleased to know!

The upload was incredibly easy, we just had the camera in the same room as the computer the Eye-Fi Manager software was installed on. In future, we might see what the maximum distance away we could be and still get it to work. It uploaded AVIs, MOVs, and JPGs.

We tried that card in three different cameras that we had around and it worked perfectly in all of them. However, some people have reported problems with some cameras.

The pictures are also geotagged – which means that they’re tagged to show where they were taken. If they’re uploaded to Flickr or iPhoto, they become searchable in Places, or on a map by city or country. There’s even an iPhone app now!

We were using Eye-Fi Pro, which also allows RAW camera files to be uploaded to the computer.

And our verdict? It’s brilliant. Get an Eye-Fi card, you’ll love it.

You can find more details at

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2010 user survey

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2010 has been available for download free from for just over a week. Each new Yearbook is always greeted with enthusiasm by mainframers everywhere, and, not too surprisingly, there were over 2500 downloads on the first two days the 2010 edition was available. The Yearbook is always interesting, but especially interesting each year are the results of the user survey.

Respondents all completed a survey on the Arcati site between the 2 November 2009 and the 4 December 2009. 30% were from Europe and 46% from North America, with 24% from the rest of the world.

42% of the respondents worked in companies with upwards of 10,000 employees worldwide, while 19% had 1001 to 5000 staff. 16% of respondents had 0-200 staff and 12% had 5001-10,000. In terms of MIPS 45% of respondents had fewer than 1000 MIPS installed, 26% fell into the mid-sized category between 1000 and 10,000 MIPS, and 29% were at the high end.

Looking at MIPS growth produced some interesting results. Larger, more mature businesses (above 10,000 MIPS) were mostly experiencing some growth, but some growing by more than 50%. Sites in the 1000-10,000 MIPS range were typically experiencing growth of less than 10%. Sites below 1000 MIPS were also generally experiencing growth of less than 10%. The mainframe market does appear to be quite fragmented with competitive pressures at the lower end of the mainframe market.

With the environment and environmental issues getting so much coverage in the media these days, the survey asked whether IBM's recent green initiatives on things like power consumption and cooling had made the mainframe more or less attractive. Nearly three-quarters (72% - up from last year's 62%) said that IBM's green initiatives made no difference at all. One site said that the initiative made the mainframe less attractive. 19% felt it made the mainframe a little more attractive, and 7% felt it made the mainframe a lot more attractive. Clearly "greenness" isn't much of a selling point for mainframes.

With all the suing and counter-suing going on between IBM and NEON Enterprise Software over NEON's specialty processor software, the survey asked which specialty processors sites had. 37% of respondents had not yet activated or installed a specialty processor, 12% of sites had all three (IFL, zIIP, and zAAP), and a further 12% had two of the three specialty processors. More sites had zIIP processors (39%) than any other.

As usual, respondents were unhappy with costs. One commented: "The mainframe is too expensive (and perceived as being even more so). Costs for legacy applications must come down, and third-party software must support the mainframe." Another suggested: "The other platform costs may be increasing faster than mainframes but the starting point is drastically lower."

As always, there are wonderful nuggets of information in the survey.

The Yearbook can only be free to mainframers because of the support given by sponsors. This year's sponsors were CA, DataKinetics,, Progress:DataDirect, and Software Diversified Services (SDS).

Friday, 5 February 2010

Oracle versus IBM and DB2

Oracle’s Larry Ellison threw down the gauntlet recently when he made claims about the superiority of Oracle over DB2. IBM has, of course, responded. Below are the Oracle claims and the IBM rebuttals. Enjoy!

ORACLE: "We blew the doors off of IBM. We crushed them." [Referring to TPC-C benchmark results] In a machine that took up less than 10% the floor space, of IBM's record setting computer. We ran faster, we ran a lot faster: using a tiny fraction of the floor space, a tiny fraction of the power, cost less."

IBM: Until late last year, DB2 enjoyed a massive 49% lead over Oracle. With Oracle's most recent result, they have taken the lead by 25% (and by the way, they used more than six times as many CPU cores to do it). We are confident that DB2 will retain its lead this year. Also, remember that DB2 has dominated TPC-C performance leadership over the past seven years, with almost twice as many days of leadership as Oracle Database.

Regarding the claim of using less space and power, this is a result of Oracle using flash memory and comparing it with an IBM benchmark using conventional disk technology. If Oracle compared its benchmark to an IBM system using flash memory, they could not make these outlandish claims.

For a more detailed look at Oracle's outlandish claims, see

ORACLE: "SAP chooses the Oracle Database to run under SAP in almost all their large accounts."

IBM: SAP themselves favor DB2 for their own systems. They operate more than a thousand SAP systems, and all of those systems run on DB2 ( Not only that, but the past couple of years has seen literally hundreds of SAP clients ripping out Oracle Database and replacing it with DB2 ( They have been migrating off Oracle Database and on to DB2 to lower costs, improve performance, and ease administration.

ORACLE: "We have the best Unix in the world"

IBM: AIX has demonstrated performance leadership with 7 of top 10 TPC-C performance results ( Also, the ITIC 2009 Global Server Hardware & Server OS Reliability Survey Results reveal that AIX is 2.3 more reliable than the closest UNIX competitor.

ORACLE: "The Oracle Database scales out, IBM DB2 for Unix does not. Let me see, how many servers can IBM put together for an OLTP application? Let's see, how many can they group together? Um, one. They can have up to one server attacking really big jobs. When they need more capacity, they make that server bigger. And then they take the old server out, put a bigger one in. And when you've got the biggest server, that's it. That's all the can do for OLTP."

ORACLE: "They can't scale out, they can't do cloud, they can't do clusters, the can't do any of this."

IBM: This statement has been false since the inception of DB2. DB2 Parallel Edition was brought to market in 1995, along with the capability to scale to a system of over a 100 Unix servers. DB2 for LUW scalability is proven in many of the world's largest OLTP environments. In fact, IBM believes that DB2 for LUW powers one of the largest OLTP system in the world, if not the largest ( As regards support for clusters, DB2 pureScale was introduced to market in 2009. For a cluster of 64 nodes, DB2 pureScale maintains 95% efficiency. At 128 nodes, DB2 pureScale maintains 84% efficiency. This is important because if you are growing a cluster to handle bigger workloads, you want your hardware to be doing productive work, not handling system overhead. On the other hand, Oracle RAC [Real Application Clusters] has a 100 server limit. And to my knowledge, Oracle has yet to publish any efficiency numbers.

ORACLE: "You would've thought, years ago, that IBM would have come out with a database machine. I mean its so obvious, they've got hardware, they've got DB2. Why in the world didn't they come out with a database machine? It's fascinating."

IBM: Remember that IMS and DB2 have made System z a database machine for more than 40 years. In recent years, IBM has also brought “database machines” to market. In 2005, IBM introduced an integrated offering for data warehousing that has evolved into the IBM Smart Analytic System. In 2009, IBM also introduced DB2 pureScale, an integrated hardware/software stack for OLTP.

ORACLE: "IBM doesn't have the same assets, and that's a big problem for them. They don't have Java, they don't have the Oracle Database. What they've got is a problem."

IBM: He's right. IBM does not have the same assets as Oracle. We have more. Oracle does not have System z, the world's top performing, most reliable and secure server; does not have business consulting arm such as 4,000 business analytics consultants with industry specific expertise and IBM Research - a leader in developing patents for the 17th year in a row.

ORACLE: "They're so far behind, I don't think they have any chance at all. I'm serious. I mean they've been working on this DB2 thing for I don't know how long, and they still can have up to one. I would say in database, they're a decade or so behind us. I'm serious."

IBM: IBM has led the industry in developing patents for the last 17 years. In 2009, IBM produced 4914 patents while Oracle did not even place in the top 50 patent leaders. A search of the US Patent office database reveals 1588 patents with "database" in the patent description while Oracle produced only 184 patents. (

ORACLE: "They are not competitive in the database business, except on the mainframe. The IBM DB2 product on mainframe is a good product. In fact the two best databases on the planet are IBM on mainframes and Oracle. The trouble is that Oracle runs on modern computer systems and IBM on mainframes runs on mainframes.

IBM: Larry is on record saying, "Our vision for 2010 is the same as IBM's in the 1960." IBM has added 50 years of experience in hardware software and services since then. Oracle is giving IBM the sincerest form of flattery by attempting to imitate IBM.

I just thought you’d like to know.